Month: December 2011

VOUS AVEZ DIT EXTRÊMISTES?

 

 

VIOLENCES DE BEIT SHEMESH:
QUI SONT CES ULTRA-ORTHODOXES?

Julien Bahloul

Guysen.com, 28 décembre 2011

Qui sont les ces ultra-orthodoxes responsables des violences de ces derniers jours? Les orthodoxes israéliens refusent d’être tous mis dans le même sac. Et pour cause. Le groupe à l’origine des récents évènements est affilié à la petite secte religieuse des Toldot Aharon.

 

Cette dernière est essentiellement basée à Londres, à New York, dans le quartier de Mea Shearim à Jérusalem et à Beit Shemesh, où se sont concentrés les récents évènements. Ils seraient une cinquantaine de familles dans cette ville.

 

Dirigée par le rabbin David Kohn, elle est née d’une scission avec le mouvement orthodoxe Shomer Emunim. Les deux groupes ont en commun un mode de vie très rigide (la mouvance Shomer Emunim proscrit par exemple le port de vêtements en laine) et la haine du sionisme. Ils estiment que l’État d’Israël dans sa forme actuelle est une aberration et une insulte à la promesse messianique d’un retour des Juifs en terre promise lorsque le Temple de Jérusalem sera rebâti.

 

A Jérusalem, les hommes mariés et non mariés revêtent la veste blanche et grise «Zebra» durant la semaine et la veste or bekishes durant le shabbat. Les membres du Toldot Aharon sont les seuls Juifs orthodoxes à avoir le même code vestimentaire pour les hommes mariés ou non mariés âgés de plus de 13 ans. La distinction entre un homme marié et un homme célibataire se fait sur la base des chaussures. Le premier revêt des souliers blancs tandis que le second en revêt des noires.

 

Les femmes mariées cachent leurs cheveux sous une perruque. La pudeur exigée est la plus sévère de tous les groupes orthodoxes juifs. Certaines femmes, pas toutes, vont jusqu’à se raser le crane. Cette tradition se retrouve essentiellement dans la communauté de Jérusalem. Par ailleurs, au sein de la capitale israélienne, les jeunes filles pas encore mariées séparent leurs cheveux en deux tresses alors que, la plupart du temps, les filles orthodoxes n’en ont qu’une en forme de queue de cheval.

 

Mais ce qui distingue surtout ces ultra-orthodoxes des orthodoxes «classiques» est leur rapport à l’État d’Israël. La majorité des orthodoxes israéliens ne sert pas dans l’armée car elle estime qu’être soldats l’empêcherait de consacrer tout son temps à Dieu et à l’étude de la Thora. En revanche, elle est respectueuse des lois de l’État d’Israël, participe à la vie politique du pays en étant représentée par divers partis. A la naissance de l’État, les dirigeants orthodoxes avaient assuré David Ben Gourion de leur soutien à son gouvernement et à la fondation du pays, en échange de la garantie qu’Israël respecterait un certain nombre de règles: pas de services publics durant le shabbat, nourriture casher dans les cantines du service public, monopole sur les questions familiales (naissance, mariage, divorce, décès) accordés aux tribunaux rabbiniques etc. Cet accord est connu sous le nom du «statu quo» entre religieux et laïcs qui permet à l’État d’exister et aux deux populations de coexister.

 

A l’inverse, les ultras ont toujours refusé la moindre entente avec les gouvernements israéliens dont ils ne reconnaissent ni la légitimité, ni l’autorité. Présents en terre d’Israël depuis des siècles, ils n’ont jamais accepté que les «sionistes» puissent leur donner des ordres. La moindre intervention policière dans l’un de leurs quartiers vire souvent à la violence. Le cas d’une décision de justice, il y à quelques années, de retirer la garde d’un enfant à une femme soupçonnée de maltraitance sur ce dernier avait provoqué des émeutes. Les ultras avaient même accusé l’hôpital d’avoir volontairement aggravé l’état de santé de l’enfant et les «sionistes» d’avoir créé un complot de toute pièce.

 

Ces ultra-orthodoxes ont une capacité à faire du bruit qui parait parfois impressionnante. Ils n’hésitent pas à croiser le fer avec la police ou avec l’armée.Ils représentent aujourd’hui un défi de crédibilité pour le gouvernement israélien qui devra assoir son autorité et rétablir le calme. Un défi d’autant plus grand que cette secte religieuse n’est qu’un groupuscule extrémiste et que les Israéliens ne comprennent pas qu’un nombre aussi peu élevé de personnes parvienne à faire autant de bruit.

PLUSIEURS MILLIERS DE PERSONNES RÉUNIES
POUR DIRE NON À L'INTÉGRISME RELIGIEUX

Mathias Ryan

Guysen.com, 28 décembre 2011

Plusieurs milliers de personnes ont manifesté mardi 27 décembre à Beit Shemesh pour dénoncer les juifs ultra-orthodoxes qui cherchent à imposer leurs codes religieux dans cette ville située à une trentaine de kilomètres de Jérusalem.

 

Des échauffourées ont éclaté lundi à Beit Shemesh, après le tollé provoqué par des images de télévision montrant une fillette de huit ans se plaignant d'avoir été insultée sur le chemin de l'école par des juifs ultra-orthodoxes.

 

Ces derniers, qui lui reprochaient une tenue «indécente», lui ont craché dessus, a-t-elle déclaré. Ces images ont alimenté la crainte d'une poussée de l'extrémisme religieux dans le pays. (…)

 

La dirigeante de l'opposition parlementaire, Tzipi Livni, qui voit dans ces évènement l'occasion de faire remonter sa côte de popularité, a participé mardi au rassemblement de Beit Shemesh et a dénoncé «les extrémistes qui veulent imposer leurs vues à tous». Des manifestants brandissaient des pancartes où on pouvait lire: «nous ne deviendrons pas un autre Téhéran», allusion aux règles strictes imposées aux Iraniens par les dirigeants de la République islamique.

 

Auparavant, le président israélien Shimon Peres avait appelé la population à se rassembler pour protester contre les pressions des juifs ultra-traditionalistes. «Nous combattons pour préserver l'âme de la nation et la nature de l'État», a-t-il déclaré dans une allocution retransmise à la télévision. «C'est une journée test. Toute la nation devra se mobiliser pour sauver la majorité des griffes d'une petite minorité, qui met à mal nos valeurs les plus sacrées», a dit Shimon Peres. «Personne n'a le droit de menacer une petite fille, une femme ou qui que ce soit, en aucune manière», a t-il ajouté. «Ils ne sont pas les seigneurs de cette terre.» (…)

 

Les autorités ont alimenté la colère des fondamentalistes hostiles à la mixité en enlevant une pancarte qui appelait les femmes à éviter certaines rues où résident les ultra-orthodoxes. Hommes et femmes sont d'ores et déjà séparés sur certaines lignes de bus de quartiers ultra-orthodoxes de Jérusalem.

LES OBSERVATIONS D’UN CANADIEN
SUR LES ISLAMISTES DE TUNISIE

Dépêche

Pointdebasculecanada.ca, 29 décembre 2011

Lors de la récente campagne électorale tunisienne, Rafaël Primeau-Ferraro a pris l’initiative d’aller en Tunisie pour alimenter un blogue qui rendait compte des activités ayant entouré l'élection de l'Assemblée Constituante qui a eu lieu le 23 octobre 2011.  Primeau-Ferraro mit fin à son blogue à la mi-novembre, deux semaines après la tenue des élections. Il consacra une partie de son dernier article à expliquer ce qui l’amena à changer d’opinion face au parti Ennahda durant les six semaines qu’il passa en Tunisie. Nous reproduisons cette portion de l’article intitulée Les islamistes.

 

En ce qui a trait aux islamistes, mon opinion a changé récemment. En débutant ce blogue, je tenais à rester objectif. C’est pourquoi j’ai pris la décision de mettre de côté les préjugés dont ils font l’objet et j’ai préféré, comme il sied en démocratie, leur donner le bénéfice du doute. Il m’apparaissait logique de laisser la chance au coureur. Après tout, le programme d’Ennahda semblait reposer sur une vision moderne et ouverte de l’Islam et leurs idées ne semblaient pas non plus restreindre les droits de quiconque.

 

À tout évènement, le parti islamiste était alors accusé – surtout par les médias français – de tenir un double discours. D’autres les ont carrément traité d’extrémistes et parfois même de criminels avec preuves à l’appui. C’est le cas de la Section du statut du Canada, tel que le révèle un jugement de la Cour d’appel fédérale canadienne en 2003, Zrig c. Ministre de la Citoyenneté et de l’Immigration.

 

On y relève notamment que la Section du statut canadien a qualifié Ennahda de «branche armée qui utilise des méthodes terroristes» et qui aurait été impliqué dans «des assassinats et des attentats à la bombe».

 

À propos du chef Rached Ghannouchi, on y affirme qu’il «est considéré par certaines sources comme étant l'un des maîtres à penser du terrorisme» et également qu’il «a fait un appel à la violence contre les États-Unis et a menacé de détruire leurs intérêts dans le monde arabe. En outre, il a demandé la destruction de l'État d'Israël.» (…)

 

Faisant fi de tous ces éléments, je me suis concentré uniquement sur les actions et les paroles du parti islamiste, le qualifiant même de «modéré» dans certains de mes articles. Les gens d’Ennahda ont demandé fréquemment à leurs détracteurs «d’attendre de voir comment ils agiront avant de les critiquer».

 

C’est ce que j’ai fait et j’ai l’impression aujourd’hui d’avoir été roulé dans la farine. J’en suis malheureusement venu à la conclusion que le parti tient effectivement un double discours et que ses dirigeants cachent à la population plusieurs des idées auxquelles ils adhèrent.

 

Les récentes déclarations de Souad Abderrahim, la députée la plus en vue d’Ennahda dont on vante le «modernisme», jumelé au silence complice des dirigeants du parti m’ont laissé vraiment perplexe. Affirmer entre autres «que les mères célibataires n’ont pas le droit d’exister» et qu’il n’y a pas de place «pour une liberté totale et intégrale en Tunisie» ne correspond pas tout à fait, à mon avis, à une vision modérée. De plus, elle avait également déclaré quelques jours auparavant qu’Ennahda «ne compte pas fermer les boîtes de nuit, mais par contre ancrera les bonnes mœurs.»

 

Ce qui m’a le plus étonné n’est pas nécessairement les déclarations de Mme Abderrahim, mais plutôt l’absence d’indignation d’une grande partie de la population. À preuve, plusieurs journaux n’ont pas jugé la nouvelle suffisamment intéressante pour la publier et mis à part la réaction outrée des jeunes sur les réseaux sociaux, on ne sentait pas vraiment l’acrimonie que ces propos auraient normalement dû soulever.

 

Peut-être est-ce le signe que de nombreux Tunisiens partagent au fond d’eux-mêmes l’opinion de la députée? C’est ce que croit Lofti Achour, producteur de cinéma connu, dans un texte…fascinant qui vaut vraiment la peine d’être lu.

 

La théorie de ce dernier, à l’effet que plusieurs personnes appuient secrètement Ennahda mais n’oseraient pas l’avouer publiquement, pourraient fort bien expliquer les résultats du parti islamique aux dernières élections. (…)

LE RÉSEAU PRO-CHARIA DE
L’IMAM FOUDIL SELMOUNE DE BROSSARD

Dépêche

Pointdebasculecanada.ca, 28 décembre 2011

Le 22 novembre 2011, l’imam Foudil Selmoune expliquait à Radio-Canada que les lois de Dieu ordonnent l’amputation et la lapidation et qu’«on peut pas les changer». Face aux réactions négatives dans Le Devoir (5 décembre) et à l’Assemblée nationale du Québec (8 décembre), plusieurs leaders des Frères Musulmans ont joué les victimes. Ils se sont plaints que les propos de l’imam auraient été «manipulés» pour «cibler la communauté musulmane». Ils prétendent que Selmoune voulait simplement «définir» la charia sans la «préconiser». Des larmes de crocodiles.

 

Apparemment, les «lois de Dieu» que Selmoune a décrites comme immuables le 22 novembre seraient devenues modifiables et optionnelles en l’espace de quelques jours. Dans ce qui suit, Point de Bascule démontre la mauvaise foi des islamistes en rappelant l’association du Centre islamique de Brossard avec plusieurs organisations qui ne se limitent pas à «définir» la charia mais qui la «préconisent» bel et bien, ici et maintenant:

 

1. Conseil musulman de Montréal (Montreal Muslim Council): Son leader, Salam Elmenyawi, fut l’instigateur d’un projet de conseil de la charia au Québec en 2004;

 

2. IRFAN-Canada: L’organisation était un collecteur de fonds du Hamas au Canada au moins jusqu’à la révocation récente de son statut d’organisme de bienfaisance. De l’aveu des dirigeants du Hamas, l’organisation vise non seulement l’élimination d’Israël mais également l’islamisation (charia-isation) des sociétés occidentales;

 

3. Islamic Online University (IOU): Le Centre de Brossard prête ses locaux à cette organisation qui dispense des cours de charia via internet pour que les étudiants y passent leurs examens. Le fondateur d’IOU, Bilal Philips, s’est déclaré favorable à l’exécution des homosexuels, à la lapidation et aux autres peines barbares commandées par la charia;

 

4. Forum musulman canadien: Dans le passé, le FMC a représenté différentes organisations des Frères Musulmans, dont la Muslim Association of Canada (MAC). La MAC déclare appliquer l'islam tel qu'il a été compris par le fondateur des Frères Musulmans, Hassan al-Banna. De son propre aveu, al-Banna promouvait la modification des lois pour les rendre conformes à la charia.

 

Les différentes appellations du Centre islamique de Brossard

 

Le Centre islamique administré par l’imam Foudil Selmoune est identifié sous diverses appellations dans les médias et les documents officiels:

 

  • Islamic Community Centre(ICC);
  • Centre communautaire islamique de la Rive-Sud;
  • Centre L'Markaz-e-Islam de la rive sud / Markaz-e-Islam Center of the south shore; C’est l’appellation utilisée dans les documents de l’Agence de revenu du Canada (ARC). Le mot markaz signifie centre en arabe. Le centre islamique de Brossard bénéficie du statut d’organisme de bienfaisance auprès des autorités canadiennes;
  • Centre culturel musulman de Brossard(CCMB): cf. Le Courrier du Sud (24 septembre 2010). (…)

 

Conseil musulman de Montréal (CMM)

 

À son habitude, Salam Elmenyawi du CMM a joué la carte de la victime. Dans son communiqué du 19 décembre, il a déclaré que le reportage de Radio-Canada venait «cibler la communauté musulmane», qu’il constituait un «profilage» (?) anti-musulman, etc. Elmenyawi n’a évidemment aucune crédibilité pour nous rassurer sur l’absence d’intention des islamistes d’instaurer la charia au Canada puisqu’il fut lui-même, en 2004, l’instigateur d’un projet de tribunal islamique au Québec.

 

À l’époque, Elmenyawi avait indiqué au Devoir (11 décembre 2004) que le tribunal islamique qu’il cherchait à implanter porterait le nom de «Conseil de la charia». Toujours selon Le Devoir, une quarantaine de mosquées et d'organisations musulmanes appuyaient le projet. L’article identifia le cheik Abderrahman Ibrahim, un gradué de l’Université de Médine (Arabie saoudite), comme un autre des responsables du projet d’implantation de la charia au Québec.

 

Avant le vote unanime de l’Assemblée nationale du Québec contre l’introduction des tribunaux islamiques au Canada (26 mars 2005), la députée Fatima Houda-Pepin avait rappelé que la Ligue islamique mondiale d’Arabie saoudite (LIM – Muslim World League) était derrière le projet d’introduction de la charia en Amérique du Nord. Dès 1991, la LIM finança une rencontre d’imams des États-Unis et du Canada à Washington sous le thème Élaborer des stratégies pour introduire la charia au Canada et aux États-Unis. (cf. Journal des débats de l’Assemblée nationale)

 

Elmenyawi mentionna également au Devoir que Youssef Qaradawi (Al Kardaoui) faisait partie des experts de l’islam que son Conseil de la charia envisageait consulter dans le futur.

 

À titre indicatif, voici des avis récents rendus par Youssef Qaradawi sur des sujets divers:

 

  • Il endosse le meurtre des musulmans qui quittent l'islam (cf. Archives PdeB);
  • Il justifie les mutilations génitales féminines (cf. Archives PdeB);
  • Il justifie le meurtre des homosexuels (cf. Archives PdeB);
  • Il soutient que Hitler avait été envoyé par Allah pour punir les juifs (cf. Archives PdeB);
  • Il déclare légitime de recourir à la force «à toutes les fois que c'est possible» pour faire appliquer les principes de l'islam (cf. «changing wrong by force whenever possible» – Priorities of the Islamic Movement, chapitre 4);
  • Il encourage la formation de «ghettos musulmans» aux États-Unis, au Canada, en Australie et ailleurs en Occident (Priorities of the Islamic Movement, chapitre 4);
  • Il promeut la conquête de l’Occident par les musulmans (cf. MEMRI).

 

IRFAN-Canada, le collecteur de fonds du Hamas

 

IRFAN-Canadaavait le statut d’organisme de bienfaisance jusqu’à ce que l’Agence de revenu du Canada (ARC) ne le lui retire en 2011. L’ARC justifia sa décision en faisant valoir qu’IRFAN servait de collecteur de fonds du Hamas au Canada. Le Hamas est inscrit sur le registre des entités terroristes maintenu par le gouvernement canadien depuis 2002. Seulement pour la période allant de 2005 à la fin de 2009, IRFAN a transféré 14,6 millions $ au Hamas. (…)

 

Forum musulman canadien

 

Le Forum musulman canadien (FMC), qui signa la lettre de protestation en faveur de l’imam Selmoune de Brossard, agit comme un regroupement d’organisations associées aux Frères Musulmans au Canada. Dans un message de félicitation adressé à Gilles Duceppe en 2010, le FMC se présentait comme le porte-parole de neuf organisations, dont l’ICC (Brossard) et la Muslim Association of Canada (MAC). (…)

 

Un des membres actuels du conseil de direction du Forum musulman canadien se dénomme Bilal Hamideh. Il a été président de la Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) à l’Université Concordia de 2000 à 2005. La MSA fut l’une des toutes premières organisations mises sur pied par les Frères Musulmans en Amérique du Nord. (cf. Discover The Networks)

 

La MSA a été décrite dans un rapport de la police de New York de 2007 (cf. p. 68 – Archives PdeB) comme un «incubateur» de radicalisme. (…)

 

En dépit de l’appui qu’il accorde à Youssef Qaradawi, Salam Elmenyawi est accrédité par l’Université Concordia comme l’aumônier des étudiants musulmans. La MSA de Concordia l’invite fréquemment à présenter des conférences. Dans une invitation à venir écouter Elmenyawi en avril 2010, la MSA de Concordia le présenta comme un sheikh et non simplement comme un brother (frère), ce qui témoigne du prestige dont il jouit chez les Frères Musulmans.

 

Islamic Online University

 

Bilal Philips est né en Jamaïque et a grandi au Canada avant de se convertir à l’islam en 1972. Après avoir enseigné la charia au Moyen-Orient, il a mis sur pied un programme d’études islamiques via internet.

 

Au Canada, plusieurs centres dirigés par les Frères Musulmans facilitent la propagation des idées de Philips en accueillant ses étudiants au moment où ils doivent passer leurs examens. Le Centre de Foudil Selmoune à Brossard est l’un de ceux-là.

 

Le 3 juillet 2011, le Globe & Mail (archivé sur JihadWatch) rapporta que Bilal Philips avait été expulsé d’Allemagne après avoir ouvertement justifié le meurtre des homosexuels.

 

En 2007 le site australien 9News (archivé sur JihadWatch) rapporta que, selon le site personnel de Philips, les amputations des mains, les décapitations, les lapidations et les séances publiques de flagellation prévues par la charia devaient se dérouler exclusivement les vendredis. Philips encourage également le mariage des fillettes pré-pubères.

 

Le 15 février 2011, le National Post (archivé sur JihadWatch) rapporta que Philips, lui-même un ancien musicien, plaidait pour l’interdiction des instruments de musique à vent et à cordes. Selon lui, c’est parce que leur musique peut apporter un réconfort aux hommes et les éloigner d’Allah qu’ils doivent être interdits. Selon les principes de charia défendus par Philips, seul le tambour est permis dans certaines circonstances.

LA VICTOIRE DU DROIT À L’OBSCURANTISME
Jean-François Lisée

Lactualite.com, 21 décembre 2011

Parlons sérieusement. Lorsqu’un parent musulman demande à une maternelle le droit d’imposer à sa fillette un «écouteur anti-bruit» pour la protéger contre… la musique, il fait preuve d’obscurantisme. Mais lorsque la maternelle accepte, elle fait beaucoup plus. Elle reconnaît au parent le droit à l’obscurantisme et le droit de l’imposer à son enfant, dans une institution publique!

 

Comme ce sont les éducateurs de maternelle qui mettent et enlèvent l’écouteur à la fillette pendant les moments, nombreux, où la satanée musique est entendue, le service public devient, non seulement le spectateur inactif, non seulement le complice conscient, mais le servile exécutant de l’obscurantisme.

 

Le cas, certes, est exceptionnel. C’est la réponse de la société québécoise qui fait problème. Jusqu’à la ministre Line Beauchamp qui affirme que ce n’est «pas un compromis au programme québécois des études». Elle a raison. Ce n’est pas un compromis. C’est une reddition.

 

On nous explique que cet «accommodement» n’est appliqué que pour un an. Qu’il vise l’intégration de l’enfant. C’est faux. L’accommodement vise strictement à se plier aux volontés obscurantistes du parent. Et maintenant qu’il a eu gain de cause, et maintenant que même la ministre trouve cela acceptable, pourquoi ne pourra-t-il pas, demain, réclamer l’écouteur anti-bruit en première année, et en deuxième, et en troisième?

L’État québécois, du haut en bas, n’a établi autour de ce cas ahurissant aucun principe qui puisse indiquer aux obscurantistes que leurs demandes sont irrecevables.

 

Savoir où tracer la ligne

 

L’argument invoqué est toujours le même: notre objectif est le bien de la fillette. Puisque la maternelle cinq ans n’est pas obligatoire, le refus de l’accommodement pourrait conduire le parent à soustraire sa fille à l’école publique. Elle serait donc dans l’obscurantisme à temps plein. Ma réponse à moi est autre: presque 100% des enfants vont désormais à la maternelle cinq ans. Cette année de préparation fait désormais partie d’introduction aux savoirs de base. Il est temps de rendre cette année obligatoire.

 

Bien. Mais alors, nous dit-on, les obscurantistes enverront leurs enfants dans les écoles religieuses dont plusieurs, au Québec, sont subventionnées. Ma réponse à moi: programmer l’élimination graduelle des subventions publiques aux écoles religieuses. Pour les écoles religieuses non-subventionnées, n’accréditer que celles qui appliquent le programme d’études général, incluant évidemment sport et musique.

 

Le but de la société québécoise n’est pas d’aménager des lieux où les obscurantistes pourront à loisir endoctriner leurs enfants. Le but de la société québécoise doit être de permettre à chacun des enfants québécois de s’épanouir pleinement, au contact de la connaissance, de la science et de la culture. Si, devenus adultes consentants, ils souhaitent choisir l’obscurantisme, ce sera leur droit.

 

Société et obscurantisme

 

Je me répète mais j’estime que tous le débat récent sur l’intégration et les accommodements évacue une question essentielle: le fait qu’il est légitime, pour une société, d’indiquer son refus des comportements obscurantistes, du moins dans l’espace public.

 

Chacun a des droits, bien évidemment, y compris la liberté de conscience, même lorsque cette liberté signifie l’adhésion à une variante de la foi qu’on peut qualifier d’orthodoxe. Dans ces cas, il s’agit en quelque sorte du droit de vivre en marge des valeurs plus généralement acceptées – notamment l’égalité des sexes et la volonté de vivre ensemble.

 

La société doit, c’est certain, admettre et protéger ces choix religieux orthodoxes. Elle n’est cependant pas tenue de s’y montrer favorable ou d’agir pour qu’un mode de vie marginal puisse se déployer dans l’espace public sans entraîner nombre d’inconvénients à ses adhérents. C’est ma conviction que, règle générale, il appartient aux citoyens québécois qui choisissent des croyances ou un comportement marginal de s’accommoder des pratiques communes, plutôt que l’inverse.

 

J’estime de plus qu’il est tout à fait légitime que la société québécoise prenne consciemment la décision d’envoyer le signal que ces choix de vie ne sont pas ceux qu’elle valorise, notamment lorsqu’ils impliquent une vision inégale des sexes ou le refus de l’interaction avec les autres membres de la société, comme dans le cas de la fillette privée de musique.

 

Voilà ce à quoi servirait une Charte de la laïcité: à ce que la société québécoise dise clairement et lisiblement, à elle-même d’abord et à tous ceux qui veulent se joindre à elle ensuite, les principes qu’elle compte appliquer….

 

Charest: une responsabilité écrasante

 

Dans cette affaire, comme dans celle de la décision de fournir des hijabs aux musulmanes gardiennes de prison, la responsabilité du gouvernement Charest est écrasante. Le Rapport Bouchard-Taylor, à mon avis très décevant, proposait au moins d’interdire aux juges, policiers et gardiens de prison de porter des signes religieux ostentatoires. Le gouvernement n’a même pas légiféré sur ce point, consensuel entre tous, ce qui mène au précédent maintenant créé pour les geôlières. Pourquoi pas, demain, les policières ?

 

Sur ce point, comme sur la langue en général, Jean Charest aura fait perdre au moins huit ans au Québec. Espérons que cette question sera aussi posée, le jour où, enfin, l’électorat lui donnera son dernier bulletin de notes.

JEWISH PRIZES, JEWISH POLITICS, JEWISH MEMORY: NOBEL PRIZES, DRONES, POLLARD & HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE

REACHING FOR THE PRIZE
Eliezer Yaari
Jerusalem Report, December 20, 2011

I feel as if a helicopter has just dropped me off on the summit of Mount Everest, and now I am standing there, applauding those who climbed up on their own, those who for decades have fought their own intellectual and physical limitations to make it to the top.… They are the few, selected not only because they were able to push the envelope of their own existence, but primarily because they pushed the envelope that binds us all to reality, as we know it, and to our specific perceptions of time and space, life and death, illness and cure.…

These are the Nobel Prize Laureates.…

The Nobel Prize for Peace is awarded separately, in Oslo, Norway—because as common wisdom tells it, Alfred Nobel believed that Norway, the country that in modern times was rarely involved in war, should host the prize for peace.…

[In Stockholm], the prizes are awarded to the people who approach the secrets of the heavens through rigorous scientific scholarship. In the 110 years’ history of the prize, according to numerous sources, at least 170 of the 850 prizewinners in all categories—about 22 percent—have been Jews. Since the percentage of Jews in the world population is merely 0.2 percent, this justifiably provides us with great national pride.

The websites that do a Jewish headcount of Nobel laureates agree on some of the recipients of the 2011 prize. Bruce Beutler, one of the three laureates for medicine, they note, is Jewish. His father, Ernest Beutler, was a Jewish hematologist who fled from Germany just in time to resettle in California, where Bruce was born in 1957. The counters are also sure about Adam G. Riess, recipient of the prize for physics. He is, they tell us, the grandson of Curt Riess, the writer who fled from Germany on board the famous ‘Europe’ in 1936, and settled with his family in New Jersey, where Adam was born in 1969. They have also included Prof. Saul Perlmutter, Nobel laureate in medicine.… As for Ralph Steinman, [another] recipient of the prize for medicine…his grandfather was chairman of the hevre kadisha (burial society) in Montreal. And, of course, there’s Prof. Dan Schechtman, the sole recipient of the prize in chemistry, from the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology.…

This year five of the nine laureates in science are Jews.… Isn’t this a reason for some national pride?…”

The press conference in Stockholm that opened Nobel Prize Week was…an opportunity to meet some of my media colleagues. One of them, a producer from New York who seemed to be about my age, identified my accent and approached me with the inevitable question: Do I know his cousin in Tel Aviv? I don’t, but we began to talk anyway.

When I asked him about the Jewish phenomenon (and what else can we call it?), he quickly shushed me down. “I don’t think that we should talk about this here. Isn’t it enough that they are blaming us for controlling Hollywood, the banks and the media? And now you want to bring up this question? They’ll end up blaming us for controlling the sciences as well.” Shah. Shah.… Just like in the good old days…[when] we were afraid. So now we Jews control science, too. Not bad for just over ten million Jews. If it were true, I wouldn’t mind being hated.

The meeting with the Nobel laureates in medicine takes place in the Karolinka Institute in northern Stockholm. Beutler and Jules Hoffman [the French recipient of the prize for medicine, whose grandfather was Jewish]…are recipients of the prize for…“their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity.” In a different language, that means that they may have discovered a way to harness the human immune system in extreme situations in order to overcome disease.

Beutler and Hoffman shared the prize with a third physician, Prof. Ralph Steinman, who received the prize for “his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity.” This means the same thing—Steinman took the world of medicine one step ahead towards finding a cure to cancer and other terminal diseases. But Steinman suffered from a particularly aggressive type of cancer that usually kills patients within less than a year from the time of diagnosis. He used his new medicine on himself and lived with his disease for five years.

He didn’t make it to the awards ceremony in Stockholm. Steinman died just a few hours before they announced the prize. For the first time in history, a Nobel Prize was awarded posthumously. Steinman’s widow, Claudia, and his three children were there in his stead.… At the awards ceremony, [as] Claudia…approaches the King of Sweden and receives the medal and the prize, the audience applauds for a particularly long, moving time.…

Shechtman arrives in Stockholm with a large entourage, including the leadership of the Technion, and representatives of all of the major media outlets in Israel. The prize ceremony is broadcast live in Israel on all the stations. Israelis feel a double pride—not only as Jews, but as Israelis who believe that this prize vindicates and validates our national rebirth. Here, in the State of Israel, we tell ourselves, we find the continuity of the Jewish traditions of excellence and investment in the individual. It is here that we will rebuild the world of study that was consumed by the fires in the crematoria of Auschwitz. And not only have we redeemed ourselves in our land, we are enjoying the recognition of the entire world.…

THE DO-IT-YOURSELF ORIGINS OF THE DRONE
Peter Finn

Washington Post, December 24, 2011

In 1980, Abraham Karem, an engineer who had emigrated from Israel, retreated into his three-car garage in Hacienda Heights outside Los Angeles and, to the bemusement of his tolerant wife, began to build an aircraft. The work eventually spilled into the guest room, and when Karem finished more than a year later, he wheeled into his driveway an odd, cigar-shaped craft that was destined to change the way the United States wages war.

The Albatross, as it was called, was transported to the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, where it demonstrated the ability to stay aloft safely for up to 56 hours—a very long time in what was then the crash-prone world of drones. Three iterations and more than a decade of development later, Karem’s modest-looking drone became the Predator, the lethal, remotely piloted machine that can circle above the enemy for nearly a day before controllers thousands of miles away in the southwestern United States launch Hellfire missiles toward targets they are watching on video screens.

The emergence of hunter-killer and surveillance drones as revolutionary new weapons in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in counterterrorism operations in places such as Pakistan and Yemen, has spawned a multi-billion-dollar industry, much of it centered in Southern California, once the engine of Cold War military aviation.

Over the next 10 years, the Pentagon plans to purchase more than 700 medium- and large-size drones at a cost of nearly $40 billion, according to a Congressional Budget Office study. Thousands more mini-drones will be fitted in the backpacks of soldiers so they can hand-launch them in minutes to look over the next hill or dive-bomb opposing forces.…

The companies that design and manufacture drones have experienced massive growth that shows no sign of slowing, even with the end of the war in Iraq and the planned drawdown in Afghanistan. The technology is significantly cheaper than traditional aircraft, and its potential uses increase as the craft become faster and stealthier. Teal Group, a Fairfax market analysis firm, estimates that nearly $100 billion will be spent globally on drones between now and 2019.…

Karem was born in Baghdad, the son of a Jewish merchant who moved the family to Israel in 1951. He developed an early fascination with building aircraft and gravitated toward drones in the early 1970s when Israeli aviation engineers tried to satisfy an operational need for real-time, front-line intelligence. “My preoccupation with UAVS continued for 30 years,” Karem said.

After leaving the Israeli air force and working for a defense contractor, Karem grew frustrated at his efforts to start his own business building drones in Israel and thought he would have more success in California.

The flight of the Albatross led Karem, with the support of DARPA, to develop the Amber drone, which was stocked with custom-built components, including a powerful flight control computer, and could be configured for surveillance or attack missions. He also developed a lower-technology, export version called the Gnat 750.…

Karem sold his company to Hughes Aircraft, which, in turn, sold it to General Atomics, a privately held firm that earns an estimated $600 million per year from defense contracts. Karem remained on as a consultant.…

[Karem] has [since] abandoned drones to pursue a new dream at his offices in Lake Forest: A Boeing 737-size passenger plane capable of taking off vertically and landing like a helicopter. Such an advance, Karem said, would scupper the need for high-speed rail and allow planes to commute between the downtowns of different cities. Karem calls it an “aerotrain,” and the 74-year-old wants it built before he retires. “I never fail,” he said.

FREE POLLARD NOW, IN THE NAME OF HIS LATE FATHER!
David Kirshenbaum

Jerusalem Post, December 26, 2011

During the past 22 years, I had the privilege of knowing Dr. Morris Pollard, the father of Jonathan Pollard. Earlier this year, Dr. Pollard passed away at the age of 95. One of the little known aspects of Jonathan Pollard’s case is how much his father contributed to the United States.

Dr. Pollard was a world class scientist and cancer researcher who continued his work until just a few weeks prior to his death. For nearly 50 years, Pollard oversaw Notre Dame University’s longest-running medical research program that resulted in major discoveries in the battle against cancer. He developed bone marrow transplants to treat leukemia and sarcomas, for which he was honored with the Hope Award from the American Cancer Society; pioneered discoveries for the suppression of colon carcinoma and related metastases and methods for dissolving blood clots; developed groundbreaking tests for Hepatitis A and discovered treatments for trachoma, a major cause of blindness around the world. In World War II while a member of the US Army, and under the orders of Gen. George Marshall, Pollard investigated and tested vaccines for exotic viruses then afflicting American soldiers in the Pacific. Working with these vaccines and viruses was fraught with potentially fatal health risks. Pollard was honored for his work with three presidential citations and an Army Commendation Medal.

Pollard published more than 300 scientific articles, and was world-renowned in his field for developing a unique breed of germ-free “Lobund-Wistar” rats to study the mechanisms of disease. Even at age 95, he was in his lab almost every day.…

Only after Jonathan’s arrest did Dr. Pollard fully understand some of the conversations he had had with Jonathan, who had seemed to be extremely troubled by things he had learned at work as a civilian analyst in Naval Intelligence. In private conversations, Dr. Pollard told me he regretted not having been more receptive to Jonathan’s veiled approaches for advice about how to deal with the fact that information was being withheld from Israel.

Ironically, those restrictions were imposed in response to Israel’s destruction of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility. Bobby Ray Inman, deputy CIA director at the time, has acknowledged that he was so disconcerted that American-supplied satellite photography had been used to carry out Israel’s operation that he ordered all intelligence data covering areas more than 400 km. from Israel’s borders to be withheld from Jerusalem.…

One of the questions that haunted Dr.Pollard was why Jonathan was singled out for punishment far beyond that meted to every other American caught spying for US allies or neutral countries and even exceeded the sentence imposed on over 90 percent of spies for US adversaries. That mistreatment started immediately after Pollard was arrested, when he was thrown into a hospital for the criminally insane for ten months, despite the fact that there was no indication he needed medical treatment. Only as a result of Dr. Pollard’s appeal to Congressman Lee Hamilton was the younger Pollard ultimately released from the psychiatric ward.…

Another aspect of Jonathan’s punishment that gave Dr. Pollard no rest was the influence on the sentencing judge of Caspar Weinberger’s still-classified memorandum and the ongoing reliance upon it as grounds for Jonathan’s continued imprisonment after a quarter of a century. Dr. Pollard strongly felt that the use of secret testimony in situations where, as in Jonathan’s case, neither the accused nor his counsel is afforded an adequate opportunity to challenge it, was anathema to core American values.

That indefensible procedural defect was magnified, in Dr. Pollard’s eyes, by questions about Weinberger’s general credibility. During the Iran-Contra investigation…Weinberger was indicted by a federal grand jury for perjury and obstruction of justice and was spared a trial and possible jail time only by a pardon granted by President George H.W. Bush.…

Today, a large and growing cadre of former intelligence, congressional, White House and cabinet-level personnel who are familiar with the classified documents are calling for Pollard’s release. These include Henry Kissinger, George Shulz, Dan Quayle, John McCain, former attorney-general Michael Mukasey and a bipartisan group of 18 former US senators, including four who served as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Their calls are yet another indication that Pollard’s crime did not warrant the punishment he has served. In light of that fact, the holiday season—a traditional time for presidential pardons—is an appropriate time to honor his father’s memory. It is time for mercy. It is time at long last to free Jonathan Pollard.

A FORGOTTEN HOLOCAUST HISTORY—
THE STRUMA AND MEFKURE TRAGEDIES:
AN INDICTMENT OF INDIFFERENCE
Baruch Cohen

In memory of beloved Malca z’l

There is not a single page on our calendar that does not call to memory countless of our sisters and brothers who have perished simply for being Jewish: we will commemorate them for as long as we live, for in remembrance, they live on. To forget them would make us accomplices of those who write doctoral theses alleging that the Holocaust was imagined, or that the Struma and Mefkure stories are a lie.

In December 1941, 760 people, including children, boarded a cattle boat named the Struma. Likewise, in August 1944, 394 Jews boarded a boat called the Mefkure. The boats were unsafe, terribly overcrowded and lacking in sanitary facilities.

The passengers were Jewish citizens of Romania, who prior to boarding were abused, humiliated and tormented, spat up on and robbed. If not for boarding either the Struma or the Mefkure, they would have simply been killed. Yet the faint hope of reaching the Promised Land—the sea leading to Eretz Israel—compelled them to leave everything behind, to risk their lives, in hopes of reaching their National Home.

The Struma sank in the Black Sea on February 24, 1942, with all passengers drowning save for one. The Mefkure suffered a similar fate on August 5, 1944, leading to the deaths of all 394 passengers. It is suspected that both vessels sunk—whether by German, Soviet, or British submarines is still unclear.

The Struma tragedy is the subject of an excellent documentary by the well-known filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, who has brought the story of the Struma to life, restoring the truth.

We owe it to ourselves to remember all Holocaust victims, including those aboard the Struma and Mefkure. We owe it to our children and children’s children not to forget those who perished in Europe’s ovens, as well as those who perished at sea, on their way to the Promised Land, our national home: Israel.

Never Forget!

The shared fate of both the Strumaand Mefkurecomprises an integral part of the Holocaust, a tragedy in which the world discarded its humanity.

Never Forget!

(Baruch Cohen is Research Chairman for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)

The Fall of the Israel-Turkey Relationship

On Sunday, October 23, a devastating magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck southeast Turkey, killing hundreds and injuring thousands more. In a show of solidarity, Israeli officials called their Turkish counterparts to offer sympathy and relief aid. Turkey’s response prompted Commentary magazine editorialist, Jonathan S. Tobin, to pen the following:

 

“How determined is Turkey to repudiate its decades-long alliance with Israel? [The] decision by the Turks to…refuse assistance from Israel is a stunning indication of how far the Islamist government in Ankara is willing to go to make a point.… [Turkey’s Prime Minister Recip Tayip] Erdogan would apparently prefer to see his compatriots die rather than to allow Jews to help them.…”

 

Admittedly, Turkey did eventually accept Israel’s help, an act Defense Minister Ehud Barak hoped “may help reduce tension and open a new page in our relations with Turkey.” However, Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, quickly downplayed the gesture, reaffirming that the “political conditions remain” and that despite the support Ankara would not change its position vis-a-vis the Jewish state.

 

This episode begs the question: how did the once-strong Israel-Turkey relationship deteriorate to such a degree?

 

Many identify as the turning point the now-infamous May 2010 flotilla incident, in which nine Turkish nationals were killed when Israeli soldiers boarded the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish government-sponsored ship attempting to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

 

However, a closer examination shows that Turkey’s dismantling of its strategic partnership with Israel began long before.

 

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline B. Glick notes that since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) took power in 2002, the regime “has inculcated the formerly tolerant if not pro-Israel Turkish public with virulent anti-Semitism.” Israel recently chastised Turkey’s Education Ministry for sponsoring an antisemitic website.

 

Glick also highlights the Turkish government’s support for terrorist groups like the al Qaida- and Hamas-linked IHH, which organized the flotilla to Gaza. Erdogan’s allegiance to Hamas, for instance, was already made overt following Israel’s 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead, when the Turkish prime minister acted as the “international community’s” most vocal critic of the Israeli incursion into Gaza. Most conspicuous was Erdogan’s public, and well-publicized, rebuke of President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009. Erdogan has also stated, “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization.… They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land.”

 

More recently, Erdogan’s National Security Council removed Iran and Syria as designated threats, but labeled Israel a “major threat.” With respect to Iran, in particular, Turkey has become the regime’s economic lifeline, allowing the mullahs to use Turkish markets to bypass UN sanctions. And Turkey is one of a handful of countries to have invited the President of the Islamic Republic, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on a formal visit.

 

It is worthwhile noting that Israel’s Operation Cast Lead has been largely vindicated. The military operation, aimed at halting Hamas’ indiscriminate firing of missiles at civilian population centers, provoked global condemnation, culminating in the UN’s issuance of the biased Goldstone Report. Yet Richard Goldstone, the UN fact-finding mission’s chief investigator, this year retracted many of his most dubious accusations—including charges of “war crimes” levied against IDF soldiers—in sequential op-eds written in both the Washington Post and NY Times.

 

This past September, after repeated delays at the behest of the Turkish government, the UN finally released the Palmer Report, the findings of an independent inquiry into the Mavi Marmara episode headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer. The report exculpated Israel for its defensive actions against Turkish militants aboard the ship, stating that IDF commandos “faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers…requiring them to use force for their own protection.” Moreover, the report confirmed the legality of Israel’s Gaza blockade: “Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure…and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”

 

Israel accepted the Palmer Report’s findings. Turkey rejected them outright, declaring the report “null and void.” Ironically, it was Turkey that had initially demanded the official UN probe.

 

Immediately following the report’s release, Turkey elevated its confrontation with Israel to new heights. Erdogan’s government downgraded the Jewish state’s diplomatic standing to second secretary level, effectively giving Israel’s ambassador 48 hours to leave the country. Turkey froze military cooperation with Israel, fortified its naval presence in the Mediterranean, and warned that the Turkish war ships would escort future flotillas to Gaza.Turkey also pledged to refer Israel’s blockade of the Strip to the International Court of Justice—despite the Palmer Report’s corroboration of the legality of the blockade—while simultaneously threatening to sue the IDF soldiers who took part in the raid.Turkish officials even went so far as to harass forty Israelis on a Tel Aviv-to-Istanbul flight by sequestering them upon landing and subjecting them to humiliating “searches.”

 

Concurrently, Erdogan embarked on a tour of Arab states to support the Palestinians’ unilateral bid for statehood at the United Nations. Using the trip as a platform to up his anti-Israel rhetoric, Erdogan called Israel “a spoiled child,” and claimed “the Israeli people are [always] resorting back to the issue of genocide in history and…acting as if they are the victims all the time.” At a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, Erdogan stressed that Israel had to “pay a price for its aggression and crimes,” and subsequently accused Israel of committing “state terrorism,” claiming Israeli policies were “cause for war.”

 

Erdogan also steadfastly adhered to a previous demand that Israel apologize to Turkey for the flotilla incident, despite the Palmer Report’s recommendation that Israel only make “an appropriate statement of regret.”

 

Yet Turkey’s shift away from Israel was clearly predictable. Since taking office, Erdogan’s Islamist AKP party has reshaped Turkey in a manner that foreshadowed conflict with the lone democratic state in the Middle East. The government has used unlawful means to suppress and silence all significant organs of secularist opposition. The regime has limited press freedoms, blocking websites such as YouTube and imprisoning more than 60 journalists. According to the International Press Institute, Turkey has more jailed journalists than any other country in the world, including China and Iran.

 

The repression has also extended to Turkey’s military. The Kemalist constitution originally designated Turkey’s military as the protector of secular Turkey, bound to combat all threats posed by religious political parties. Over the past decade, however, the AKP has done everything possible to criminalize the military’s leadership and reduce its constitutional powers. To date, more than 160 officers have been charged with involvement in claimed coup plots. The witch-hunt peaked in 2007 with the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy, which resulted in the conviction of senior military commanders on trumped up allegations of attempting to topple the AKP government.

 

A government that suppresses internal freedoms can be expected to oppose and confront countries—including Israel—which maintain and promote freedom. Turkey fits the bill. In an interview earlier this year, former Turkish President Suleyman Demirel warned that the AKP has established “an empire of fear” in Turkey.

 

As a result, Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes in September wrote a National Post article designating Turkey, in addition to Iran, as “the most dangerous state of the region.” Pipes focuses on the AKP’s Islamization of the country, calling the phenomenon “Islamists without brakes,” and points to the abrupt resignation of four out of five Turkish chiefs of staff on July 29 as the end of the secular republic founded in 1923 by Kemal Ataturk.

 

“A second republic headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist colleagues of the AK Party began that day,” Pipes asserts. “The military safely under their control, AKP ideologues can pursue their ambitions to create an Islamic order.”

 

Today, Erdogan is well positioned to capitalize on his Neo-Ottoman ambitions. Flush with victory after June’s election, in which his AKP won 50% of the vote, Erdogan’s goal of expanding Turkey’s influence throughout the Middle East has been given new life.

 

“Believe me, Sarajevo won today as much as Istanbul. Beirut won as much as Izmir, Damascus won as much as Ankara, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, and the West Bank,” Erdogan said of his landslide win.

 

Barry Rubin, director of Israel’s Global Research in International Affairs Center also believes “The elections in Turkey mark[ed] a revolution, an event every bit as significant as the revolutions in Iran and Egypt.” Like Pipes, Rubin claims that “The Turkey of secularism and Western orientation is finished. The Turkey that belongs to an alliance of radical Islamists abroad and at home has been launched.”

 

(Charles Bybelezer is Publications Chairman
for the
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)

TURKEY, GENOCIDE AND HUMAN RIGHTS: ANKARA TURNS AGAINST ISRAEL, EUROPE & US

Last Thursday, France’s National Assembly passed a law making it a crime to deny that the atrocities against Armenians committed by Ottoman Turks from 1915-1918 constituted a genocide.

 

In response, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan chastised French President Nicholas Sarkozy, accused France of committing its own genocide in Algeria, and cited the bill’s passage as “a clear example of how racism, discrimination and anti-Muslim sentiment have reached new heights in France and in Europe.” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also weighed in, stating that “Europe has philosophically and ideologically reverted to the Middle Ages.”

 

Erdogan’s Islamist AKP government has since escalated the confrontation, recalling Turkey’s ambassador to France for “consultations,” and imposing a slew of military and economic sanctions. Clearly, one can now add France to an ever-expanding list of countries—including Israel, and Syria—to which Turkey’s alleged “zero problems” (Davutoglu’s words) foreign policy does not apply.

 

Yet Turkey’s involvement in a growing number of diplomatic altercations has been predictable. Empowered by his Islamist Party’s landslide victory in last June’s elections, Erdogan’s overarching neo-Ottoman ambitions have naturally enmeshed Turkey in a multitude of regional disputes. Coupled with ongoing internal repression, Erdogan’s AK Party has solidified its grip on the country by suppressing dissent. Turkey’s hegemonic drive is likely to intensify and, as Erdogan’s tentacles stretch further abroad, additional controversies should be expected.

 

TURKEY SAYS FRENCH LAW DAMAGES
‘FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION’
Zvi Bar’el

Haaretz, December 28, 2011

A Holocaust must not be denied, according to France, be it the Jewish Holocaust or the Armenian. While the French Parliament passed a law in 1990 against denying the Jewish Holocaust and against manifestations of anti-Semitism, the Armenian Holocaust has not won identical status. The lower house last week passed a bill defining denial of the slaughter of the Armenian people as a crime, but it still needs the Senate’s approval to become law.

Turkey is not waiting. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already imposed a string of sanctions on France, including a prohibition on the landing of French warplanes and the anchoring of French warships in Turkish territory. More sanctions, including a trade freeze between the two countries, are expected, and if the law is passed in the Senate, Turkey is liable to widen the breach.

Although the murder of approximately 1.5 million Armenians—or “the death of Armenians in a situation of war,” as the Turkish version has it—took place in 1915, under the Ottoman Empire, Turkey sees the definition of genocide as casting direct blame on it. This is not just a matter of legal repercussions that might stem from casting blame. In Turkey’s view, refuting this accusation is “a matter of pride,” as Erdogan has defined it, or more precisely: “a correction of an historical distortion.” Turkey says the French law damages the freedom of expression.

Erdogan is not a champion of freedom of expression. The Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, a Nobel laureate for literature, can testify to the travails he endured at the hands of the Turkish legal system for his statements on the slaughter of the Armenians.

In a conflict between freedom of expression and honor, honor will win. Israel, too, has learned that the red line in Turkish foreign policy is honor—whether the subject be the killing of Turkish citizens on the Mavi Marmara or casting historical blame. Thus, Turkey froze trade with France in 2001 when a law similar to the recognition of the Armenian genocide came up before the French Parliament. Similarly, Turkey narrowed its relations with Israel because of an apology that has not been made and the refusal to pay compensation for the Turks who were killed. Turkey also decided to cut relations with Syria when Syrian President Bashar Assad thumbed his nose at its requests and warnings to cease the bloodshed.…

In its relations with Iran, Turkey had aspired to establish a diplomatic axis, but things are tense in the context of Turkey’s policy toward Syria. As for Iraq, Turkey is attacking the bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK ) and is liable to enter into conflict with the Iraqi regime. As for Cyprus…no solution is in sight. According to Erdogan, Turkey will sever ties with the EU during Cyprus’ stint in its rotating presidency. Now, France has joined the list of “hostile countries.”

Turkey’s foreign policy is not detached from domestic political considerations, which dictate its conduct. In each of the crises Erdogan can rely on broad public support and in some of them, as in the cases of France and Syria, the opposition also supports him. Turkey defines its foreign policy as based on “values”—not on interests. The assessment of the policy shapers is that a crisis with a neighboring country in the context of damage to Turkey’s honor or damage to interests that are important to Turkey merits diplomatic and political investment even if in the short term Turkey pays a price.

Turkey can return to Syria as a hero after Assad’s fall; Iran will be needy for purposes of maintaining order in Iraq. Turkey has earned political capital among the Palestinians from its punishment of Israel. It will also be hard for France to relinquish the activity of about a 1,000 French companies in Turkey and trade worth an estimated $12 billion.…

ARMENIAN MEMORIAL
Editorial

Jerusalem Post, December 24, 2011

Knesset members of radically different political orientations will seek this week to sway the Knesset Education Committee to promote Israeli recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud), MK Arye Eldad (National Union) and MK Zehava Galon (Meretz) will argue for a special annual Armenian memorial day in Israel.

As Jews, we entertain understandable reservations regarding the overuse the genocide term, already applied to numerous diverse incidents of mass-slaughter, including Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge purges and Rwanda’s tribal carnage. But the massacres and violent deportations by Ottoman Turks, which claimed as many as 1.5 million Armenian lives during World War I, are different.

They’re closer to a premeditated scheme to cleanse Turkey of Christians, even if not imbued with the Nazis’ systematic, all-encompassing ideology of “scientific” racism. Not every last Armenian was hunted down as in Germany’s methodical, industrialized extermination process that targeted and pursued every last hidden Jewish baby. Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer explained it best: “The Nazis saw the Jews as the central problem of world history.… The attitude towards Jews had in it important elements of pseudo-religion. There was no such motivation present in the Armenian case; Armenians were to be annihilated for power-political reasons, and in Turkey only.… Yet even if the Armenian case is not seen as a holocaust in the extreme form, which it took towards Jews, it is certainly the nearest thing to it.”

It, therefore, amply deserves Israeli recognition. Previous attempts to secure such recognition were foiled by Foreign Ministry opposition. Every care was taken not to vex Turkey, for years Israel’s sole quasi-ally in the region. Presumably, now that Turkey has turned ultra-hostile—particularly after Operation Cast Lead and the Mavi Marmara confrontation—such constraints should no longer be relevant.…

Turkey continues to cast a dark shadow over Israeli considerations even in the stark absence of any viable relationship with that country. Turkey continues to prevent Israel from doing the right thing even when there’s no expedient realpolitik incentive to avoid the moral high ground.

But Ankara intimidates elsewhere as well. France’s lower house of parliament has moved to criminalize Armenian Genocide-denial. In response, Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had thrown a super-temper tantrum.…

In retaliation, Erdogan cut ties with France, recalled his ambassador for consultations. He said Turkey was cancelling all economic, political and military meetings with its NATO partner and it would cancel permission for French military planes to land, and warships to dock, in Turkey.… His unmistakable aggressive stance towards the French parliamentary initiative contains a message for Israel too.…

Erdogan’s ruffian demeanor isn’t Israel-specific. There’s no plausible reason not to answer his hectoring defamations with incontrovertible historical truths. Why, for starters, not quit our unsavory habit of resisting Knesset resolutions on Turkey’s infamous atrocities against the Armenians? We could elaborate on Turkey’s first Armenian massacre of 1890 (100,000-200,000 dead); Turkey’s subsequent mega-massacres of 1915 in which over a million Armenians perished in a series of bloodbaths and forced marches of uprooted civilians in Syria’s direction; the WWI slaughter of tens of thousands of Assyrians in Turkey’s southeast; the ethnic cleansing, aerial bombardments and other operations that cost Kurds untold thousands of lives throughout the 20th century and beyond and still deny them the sovereignty they deserve; and finally, the 1974 invasion and continued occupation of northern Cyprus (which fails to bother the international community).

TURNING AWAY FROM EUROPE
Philip Terzian

Weekly Standard, December 19, 2011

One way to gauge the present state of European unity is to know that Turkey, which has energetically sought membership in the European Union for the past decade, is now having second thoughts about the enterprise. According to the German Marshall Fund, in 2004, three-quarters of Turks thought EU membership was a good idea; last year, that percentage had dropped to little more than a third. A recent story in the New York Times featured a pointed question from a prominent supporter of the Erdogan government in Ankara: “The EU has absolutely no influence over Turkey, and most Turks are asking themselves, ‘Why should we be part of such a mess?’” The reasons this has come to pass tell us as much about Europe, and its faltering quest for economic and political unity, as about Turkey.

It is not difficult to comprehend why and how the notion of Turkish membership was ever seriously contemplated. The EU itself is the culmination of several decades’ worth of wishful thinking: that the experience of two devastating wars had persuaded Europeans to set aside national differences in a common, transnational cause; and that the cause had persuaded postwar Europeans to surrender their currencies (and, to some degree, national sovereignty) in favor of a common monetary zone and limited authority in Brussels.

Now we know how that turned out. As long ago as 1914 socialists were surprised to discover that working-class Europeans tended to think of themselves as Frenchmen and Germans and Italians, not Europeans, when hostilities broke out. And while Europeans, for differing reasons, might have welcomed the creation of the eurozone—Germans as a means of ratifying economic dominance, Greeks for the opportunity to hitch their wagon to the stars—they have since learned the familiar lesson that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Public opinion in Germany is becoming impatient with the idea of bailing out the EU’s less provident members, and public opinion in Greece is similarly impatient with austerity dictated from Berlin.

Turkish membership in the EU depends, to a large degree, on a comparable suspension of disbelief. Turkey is a huge country located predominantly in Asia minor, populated overwhelmingly by Muslims, and ruled by a broadly successful Islamist government. It is difficult to guess how much the average Irishman or Belgian feels in common with a nation that borders on Iraq, but it is not so difficult to gauge public sentiment in Cork or Antwerp about open borders and employment for tens of millions of workers who face Mecca to pray.

The problem, of course, is that public opinion—or put another way, democracy—has never been critical to the European enterprise. The political leadership of Europe welcomed the prospect of Turkish membership in the EU for the same reason past Turkish governments sought admission. The military alliance between Turkey and the West—NATO—gave something to both sides: It kept Turkey, caught historically between East and West, in the Western camp during the Cold War; and it offered Turkey’s growing economy and Westernized elites increasing access to European markets.

Now all that is turned on its head. The strategic rationale for Turkish membership in NATO hasn’t existed since the fall of the Soviet Union, and between the Arab Spring and the growth of Islamist sentiment in the Muslim world, the Erdogan government sees its opportunities to wield influence in the East, not the West.…

Then there is the Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member situated off Turkey’s southern coast. The northern third of the island has been under Turkish military occupation since 1974, and Turkey remains not only hostile to the prospect of withdrawal and reunification—its puppet state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, is recognized by no other country—but increasingly, even violently, hostile to Cyprus itself. Turkey has threatened military action against Israeli and Cypriot proposals to drill for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, far from Turkey’s territorial waters, and plans to boycott discussions with the EU next year when Cyprus assumes its rotating presidency.

Suffice it to say that the EU constitution does not permit membership for a state whose army (illegally) occupies a large chunk of territory in a member-state.…

Turkey’s gathering sense of itself as the supreme Muslim power in the region appeals to the “reset” mentality in the White House—Erdogan says things about Israel in public that President Obama must think privately—and reduces European influence in the Middle East.

Neither of these developments can be welcome. Turkey’s tiny Christian neighbor Armenia, for example, which harbors unhappy memories of Ottoman misrule, and is subject to economic and diplomatic blockade, has lost the prospect of European Union membership as a moderating influence on Ankara. And any Turkish government that turns resolutely away from Europe, and plays to the Islamist gallery, is by any measure bad news for Washington and the long-term objectives of American policy.

OBAMA FOREIGN POLICY IN A BRIEF: THE PRESIDENT AS TURKEY
Barry Rubin
Pajamas Media, December 8, 2011

On October 5, 1938, Winston Churchill said in the House of Commons, regarding the Munich agreement in which Britain and France forced Czechoslovakia to cede the strategic Sudetenland to Germany, leading a few months later to that country’s extinction and a year later to World War Two:”I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which must nevertheless be stated, namely, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat.…”

Viscountess Astor shouted, “Nonsense!”

People ask me: How can U.S. government officials believe such silly and wrong things about the Middle East? Let’s go behind the scenes for a case study of how this works.

[Consider] a November 28 transcript about Vice-President Joe Biden’s trip to Turkey and Greece. The main briefers are Biden’s national security advisor, Antony Blinken, and Special Envoy to the Organization for Islamic Cooperation Rashad Hussain.

The briefing shows the U.S. government’s bizarre love affair for Turkey’s Islamist regime, cluelessness about the “Arab Spring,” and disinterest in supporting Israel, contradicting the president’s frequent statements that he has done more for Israel than any predecessor.

For years the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been waging war seeking to create a Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey. Apparently, the United States is getting increasingly involved in that war defined as, “Our assistance in the fight against PKK terrorism.” The U.S. government gave Turkey three SuperCobra attack helicopters and four Predator UAVs. Since that regime works closely with terrorist groups and Iran, one wonders how secure this technology will be and how far U.S. involvement is going to go.

Has there been a serious discussion in the United States about becoming a partner in the Turkey-PKK war and what might Turkey be doing in exchange for U.S. help? This concept of getting something for giving something is pretty absent in the Obama administration. True, the Turkish regime has agreed to host a NATO radar system but only after grumbling a lot and imposing stringent conditions, especially that no intelligence be shared with Israel. And that’s no favor to the United States since, as the briefers note, Turkey is supposed to be a zealous member of NATO.

What else do you have, Blinken? Well, that Turkish government is visibly helping out a lot: in Afghanistan, Iraq, against the Syrian regime, in Libya, and Egypt. “So in many, many areas we’re working very, very closely with Turkey.” Yes, but the problem is that the Turkish regime is working hard in those places to make itself leader of the region and to promote radical Islamism in all of those countries. In Egypt, Libya, and Syria for sure that means helping the Muslim Brotherhood, not to mention its work on behalf of Hamas and Hizballah.

Imagine if an American president in the 1970s had been besotted with Fidel Castro and explained how the Cubans were doing all that great work in Latin America.

Then the briefer throws out a cliché that means the exact opposite of what he thinks: “Turkey has a very important story to tell as a country that can…set an example for other countries that are making transitions in the Arab world, in the Islamic world, in North Africa.” But what is that example? The Turkish example used to be secularism, democracy, a lack of ambition abroad, a free enterprise economy, and a strong pro-Western orientation. That was the previous regime. The current regime likes Iran, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Turkey “has set an example” all right. An example of how radical Islamist forces can pretend to be moderate as they not only gain state power but do so with America’s blessing. It is a very terrible example.

There’s something naive and dopey about Obama administration briefers that reminds me of Occupy Wall Street spokesmen or a community organizer. Where’s the sharp-edged, worldly cynical, realist, the sense that threats and enemies are about, the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sneer that is a part of any good foreign policy?

Remember that Turkey’s government voted against additional sanctions against Iran last year and tried to sabotage them diplomatically. Erdogan has denied Iran is seeking nuclear weapons; Turkey is systematically violating anti-Iran sanctions. “Turkey shares our goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran,” says the briefer. Perhaps that’s what Turkish leaders say but it has no relation to what they do.…

When asked about Israel, Blinken says something else revealing, after the boiler plate on how everyone should get along: “It pains us to see the two of them at odds because they’re both such close partners of the United States.…” Traditional briefers would say something like: “The United States urges Turkey to act decisively to mend this relationship.” Obama administration briefers sound like bystanders, fearful of taking leadership or pushing for what U.S. interests require. And since they already make clear that the United States will give Turkey whatever it wants and thinks the bilateral relationship is great, nobody in Ankara will pay attention.…

Blinken can’t and won’t deal with a huge flaw in U.S. policy. This is Obama administration style: it is totally doctrinaire and is deaf to criticism, not even bothering to construct a cogent argument in response. That’s the perfect formula for marching off the cliff, and taking all of us with them.

Here’s the bottom line: “[Turkey’s] example can be very powerful to countries now going through transition. So it’s very encouraging to see Turkey play a strong leadership role.”

Yes, that’s it. Turkey’s Islamist regime, not the United States, is taking leadership and setting the example. It’s leading in an anti-American direction and setting a bad example. American interests are being trashed; American allies are in despair.

Now multiply this example by a few hundred times and you have Obama foreign policy.

WEDNESDAY’S “NEWS IN REVIEW” ROUND-UP

Media-ocrity of the Week

 

Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens US interests.”—US Vice President Joe Biden, stating that the Taliban, an al-Qaeda-aligned terrorist group that American forces have been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001, is not considered an enemy of the US by President Barack Obama. (Contentions, December 21.)

Weekly Quotes

 

If nothing happens by Jan. 26, we are going back to our international campaign for recognition.”—Senior Palestinian Authority official, Nabil Shaath, announcing the PA will resume its unilateral campaign for statehood recognition at the UN if the quartet is unable to make any breakthroughs in the peace process over the next month. This, despite the Quartet having last week reiterated its call for direct Israel-Palestinian negotiations “without delay or preconditions,” points of reference summarily rejected by the PA. (LA Times, December 22.)

 

UNESCO is shocked and dismayed by the content of the February issue, and has requested more detailed information and clarification from the editors of the magazine and the Palestinian Authority. UNESCO strongly deplores and condemns the reproduction of such inflammatory statements in a magazine associated with UNESCO’s name and mission and will not provide any further support to the publication in question.”—Excerpt of a letter written by the Office of UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova,denouncing an article in the Palestinian Authority-funded Zayzafuna magazine in which Hitler is presented as a role model for Palestinian youth. In November, UNESCO became the first UN organization to grant full membership to “Palestine.” (Independent Media Review and Analysis, December 23.)

 

The armed option is the best defense against the Zionists.”—Ali Abufoul, a Palestinian prisoner released in the second stage of the Gilad Shalit deal, affirming that warfare against Israel is the best option for Palestinians to pursue, and calling on Hamas to take more Israeli soldiers hostage. 550 Palestinian prisoners were freed last week, completing the Shalit deal. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, December 25.)

The aid from Congress is the next level in the strengthening of defense ties between Israel and the US.”—Defense Minister Ehud Barak, commending the US Congress’ approval of an additional $235 million in aid to Israel’s defense establishment—funds that will be directed towards improving the capabilities of anti-missile programs including the Arrow missile and “David’s Sling” projects. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, December 25.)

 

The duties of Egypt’s Arab and Islamic nation…[is] to defend the rights of Arab and Islamic peoples, especially our brothers in Palestine.… [It] should be noted that the party stands strongly against the attempts of normalization and dialogue in all its forms and against the establishment of relations with [an] entity that wants to obliterate our identity [and has] occupied our land.…This is the position of the party which is adhered to by all its members and leadership.”—Statement issued by Egypt’s Salafist Al Nour Party, strongly denouncing recent reports claiming the Islamist group would consider normalizing relations with the Jewish state. Al Nour has received approximately 30% of the vote in the first two stages of Egypt’s ongoing Parliamentary elections. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, December 24.)

 

The Americans have pulled out without completing the job they should have finished. We have warned them that we don’t have a political process which is inclusive of all Iraqis and we don’t have a full-blown state in Iraq.”—Former Prime Minister of Iraq, Ayad Allawi, attributing the intensifying political crisis as well as the resurgence of violence in Iraq to US President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw American forces from the country. (Wall Street Journal, December 23.)

 

“[The bill’s passage] is a clear example of how racism, discrimination and anti-Muslim sentiment have reached new heights in France and in Europe. French President [Nicholas] Sarkozy’s ambition is to win an election based on promoting animosity against Turks and Muslims.”—Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, condemning as “anti-Muslim” the passage by French lawmakers of a bill making it a crime to deny that the 1915-1918 mass killing of 1-1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks constituted genocide. (Washington Post, December 23.)

 

There have been substantial new finds of offshore natural gas, which will strengthen the fiscal position, further decrease dependence in imported fuels and improve options regarding energy security.”—Excerpt from a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), describing the prospect of Israel becoming energy-independent due to the discovery of additional natural gas reserves in its territorial waters. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, December 13.)

 

Short Takes

 

ABBAS PUTTING EXTREMIST MURDERERS ON PEDESTAL—(Jerusalem) Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is “disappointed” by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ “unfortunate decision” to meet last week with freed Palestinian terrorist Amna Muna. Abbas met with Muna along with ten other Palestinians released and exiled to Turkey as part of the Gilad Shalit deal. Muna, the so-called “Internet Murderer,” was serving a life sentence for luring 16-year-old Ofir Rahum to Ramallah where he was murdered in 2001. The PA president, according to a statement released by his office, “praised the prisoners for remaining steadfast in the face of Israeli wardens’ mastery.” Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said that “instead of promoting peace and reconciliation, the Palestinian leadership seems to be putting extremist murderers up on a pedestal.… This raises serious questions as to their commitment…to end the conflict.” (Jerusalem Post, December 21.)

 

ZAHHAR: HAMAS WILL SWEEP TO VICTORY IN NEXT ELECTIONS—(Cairo) Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar has predicted that the terror organization will win a “sweeping” victory in Palestinian legislative elections tentatively scheduled for May. In an interview with the London based pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Zahar affirmed that Hamas stands to improve on its 2006 election victory, when it won 74 of an available 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Zahar’s comments come as Palestinian factions are engaged in reconciliation talks in Cairo. According to reports, Fatah and Hamas leaders took a significant step towards reunification last week when Hamas allegedly agreed to join President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestine Liberation Organization. At least three senior Palestinian officials have voiced strong reservations over the decision to incorporate Hamas into the PLO, saying the move would empower Hamas to eventually replace Fatah as the dominant party in the body.In this respect, Mohammed Shtayyeh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, recently said that the Palestinians are considering cancelling the agreements signed between the PLO and the Jewish state, including the “recognition” of Israel.(Independent Media Review and Analysis & Jerusalem Post, December 26.)

 

IRAN ISSUES SECOND WARNING IN 2 DAYS THAT IT COULD CLOSE STRAIT OF HORMUZ—(Tehran) For the second time in two days, Iran has warned that it will close the strategic Strait of Hormuz—the passageway through which a sixth of the world’s oil flows—if the West imposes sanctions on Iranian oil shipments. Both Vice President Mohamed Reza Rahimi and navy chief Adm. Habibollah Sayyari threatened to close the strait, with Sayyari telling state-run Press TV that “Closing the Strait of Hormuz is very easy for Iranian naval forces” and that “Iran has comprehensive control over the strategic waterway.” The threats belie Iranian concerns that the West is about to impose new sanctions that could target Tehran’s vital oil industry and exports. To reduce the possible ramifications of such a move, a senior Saudi oil official this week confirmed that Gulf Arab nations are prepared to increase oil output to offset any potential loss of Iranian crude in the world markets. Iran’s navy is in the midst of a 10-day drill in international waters near the strategic oil route. (Associated Press, December 28.)

 

IRAN OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF VOTE—(Beirut) The leader of Iran’s opposition Green Movement, Mehdi Karroubi, has issued a rare statement from house arrest urging Iranians to boycott the upcoming parliamentary election. Karroubi, who has been detained without trial in an undisclosed residence for 10 months, said that Iran’s leaders had no interest in the public’s vote or opinion and would stage “sham elections” to bring loyalists to power. “The authorities want to repeat what they did in the 2009 presidential election by disqualifying the candidates…and filling up the ballot boxes with counterfeit votes and creating an atmosphere of fear in the country,” Karroubi affirmed. The parliamentary election, scheduled for March 2, will be Iran’s first polls since the tumultuous 2009 vote, which sparked nationwide protests over the contested re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Wall Street Journal, December 27.)

 

NUKE EXPERT: TIME TO ATTACK IRAN—(Washington) A former special adviser on Iran policy to the Obama Administration believes that a US-perpetrated strike on the Islamic Republic is the “least bad” option in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat. Matthew Kroenig, a nuclear security expert who served as a strategist under Defense Secretary Robert Gates, wrote in an article published by Foreign Affairs Magazine that “a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States.” Kroenig acknowledged that a military operation in Iran is not an “attractive prospect,” but explained that it is within the US’ power to minimize the anticipated effects. Kroenig warned that waging a cold war against Tehran, aimed at containing its nuclear capabilities, is “a costly, decades-long proposition that would likely still result in grave national security threats. The United States should conduct a surgical strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities…and then seek to quickly de-escalate the crisis. Addressing the threat now will spare the United States from confronting a far more dangerous situation in the future,” he concluded. (Ynet News, December 24.)

 

BAGHDAD EXPLOSIONS KILL AT LEAST 63 IN FIRST MAJOR VIOLENCE SINCE U.S. DEPARTURE—(Baghdad) More than a dozen explosions in Baghdad have killed at least 60 people and injured hundreds more—the first major violence in Iraq since the U.S. completed its troop pullout. The attacks come in the midst of an ongoing governmental emergency in which sectarian rifts and ethnic tension threaten to rip apart the country’s fragile ruling coalition. An Al Qaeda-linked group, The Islamic State of Iraq,claimed responsibility for the bombings, with US officials speculating that the terrorist organization is seeking to capitalize on the ongoing political fight between Shiites and Sunnis to sow greater dissent in the country. Last week, Prime Minister Maliki’s Shiite-controlled government shocked US officials and other observers by announcing that an arrest warrant had been issued for vice president Tariq al-Hashimi, a leading Sunni politician, on charges that Hashimi enlisted personal body guards to run a hit squad. (Washington Post, December 22 & 27.)

 

IAF MAY BUY JETS USED BY US IN IRAQ—(Jerusalem) Due to the ongoing upheaval in the Middle East and potential delays to existing procurement plans, the IDF is considering purchasing F-15 fighter jets used by the United States military in Iraq. According to a senior IDF officer, Israel’s primary concern is that the delivery of its first batch of US-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighters will be pushed back farther than the scheduled 2017 date. A number of reports recently came out of the Pentagon regarding potential problems with the development of the aircraft and the possibility that production plans will be slowed down. In this event, Israel might be asked to pay more than the $2.75 billion it committed to paying for the 20 F-35s under a 2010 deal, or suffice with less aircraft. Meanwhile, the IDF has been holding marathon talks with Israel’s Treasury in recent weeks in an effort to reach an agreement regarding the size of the defense budget for the coming year. The IDF is claiming that due to the changes in the region—particularly in Egypt—the defense budget should not be cut, but rather increased in order to facilitate the build up new military formations and capabilities needed to counter future threats.(Jerusalem Post, December 26.)

 

U.S. GENERAL IN AFGHANISTAN SAYS TROOPS MAY STAY PAST 2014—(Kabul)

The senior American commander in Afghanistan has suggested that American forces could remain in the country beyond 2014, despite previous signals from President Obama that the bulk of troops would be withdrawn by then. In an interview with The New York Times, Gen. John R. Allen provided the most emphatic signal to date that the US military intends to secure a long-term presence in Afghanistan, saying negotiations with the government of President Hamid Karzai on a strategic partnership agreement would “almost certainly” include “a discussion with Afghanistan of what a post-2014 force will look like.” The United States ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan C. Crocker, also recently said that the United States was open to keeping forces in the country if the Afghan government requested them. (NY Times, December 20.)

 

ISRAEL, TURKEY REACTIVATE AIR FORCE TIES—(Jerusalem) According to a senior officer, Israel’s Air Force (IAF) has reestablished a coordination mechanism with Turkey that works to prevent aerial misunderstandings and potential clashes over the Mediterranean Sea. Once long-time friends and training partners, ties between the IAF and the Turkish Air Force were greatly reduced following Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009, and came to an abrupt end in September when a United Nations commission, established to investigate the 2010 Turkish flotilla incident, determined that Israel’s sea blockade over the Gaza Strip is legitimate and that Israel acted within the law when boarding the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara ship. The resumption in military coordination is being viewed as part of a greater effort to stabilize and improve Israel-Turkey relations. (Jerusalem Post, December 21.)

 

NO KEYSTONE PIPELINE, NO PROBLEM—(Ottawa) Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced that Canada will consider selling its oil to China and other overseas markets with or without approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the United States. In a year-end television interview with CTV National News, Mr. Harper doubted the $7-billion pipeline would receive political approval from US President Barack Obama, and said that Canada is “very serious about selling [its] oil off this continent, selling our energy products off to Asia. I think we have to do that.”Mr. Harper’s comments came a day after the White House sent signals it might kill TransCanada’s oil sands pipeline if it is forced to make a decision on the project within 60 days, saying there was insufficient time to complete an environmental review. The Obama administration has spent three years reviewing the Keystone XL pipeline. (National Post, December 19.)

 

HOW TO CONTROL LIBYA MISSILES? BUY THEM UP—(Tripoli) The United States is currently discussing with the Libyan interim government the creation of a program to purchase shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missiles from militia members who acquired them during the war. The talks are the latest step in a multinational effort to contain the risks posed by the thousands of portable antiaircraft weapons that are unaccounted for after rebel fighters overran government weapons depots during the battle against Col. Muommar Qaddafi’s forces. Western security officials worry that terrorists could use the missiles, which are lightweight and relatively easy to fire, to target civilian passenger planes. The United States has thus far committed $40 million to secure Libya’s arms stockpiles. (NY Times, December 22.)

 

UN HONORS NORTH KOREA’S KIM JONG-IL—(United Nations) The UN General Assembly has granted a request from North Korea to hold a moment of silence for Kim Jong-il, the country’s former leader who died two weeks ago. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, president of the 193-nation General Assembly, cited “protocol” as the reason for agreeing to the request. Pyongyang is currently under Security Council sanctions due to Kim Jong-il’s nuclear weapons program, which Western officials say ate up huge sums of money that could have been used to help feed North Korea’s starving population. North Korea’s UN mission made a similar request to the Security Council, though Western diplomats said it was rejected. (Reuters, December 22.)

 

JEWISH LEADERS IN BELGIUM SPLIT OVER LIBEL SUIT—(Brussels) A former leader of Belgian Jewry has resigned from the country’s Jewish board in protest of a decision to honor a prominent politician who previously equated Israel with Nazism and sued the board for libel. Joel Rubinfeld, ex-president of the Umbrella Organization of Jewish Institutions of Belgium (CCOJB), says his resignation was in response to the organization’s decision to host André Flahaut, president of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives, as a guest of honor at a gala dinner in September. “Honoring Flahaut was inappropriate and absurd in light of his statement and the lawsuit he filed against the CCOJB,” Rubinfeld said. Flahaut sued both the CCOJB and Rubinfeld individually in 2008 for libel, claiming they called him “an anti-Semite.” Flahaut has been documented leading anti-Israel demonstrations in which protestors were seen holding signs reading “Jew Nazi,” “Gaza worse than Auschwitz” and “Protocols of Zion, final stage?” (Jerusalem Post, December 26.)

 

CUBA TO RELEASE 2,900 PRISONERS; GROSS NOT INCLUDED—(Havana) According to government officials, Cuba will release 2,900 prisoners in the coming days ahead of a visit next spring by Pope Benedict XVI. However, Jewish American Alan Gross, who is serving 15 years in prison for setting up internet equipment on the island under a US program, is not included amongst those to be pardoned. The US State Department declined to comment on the amnesty and its failure to include Gross, but has repeatedly said in the past that he was only providing internet access for Jewish groups in Cuba and should be released immediately. Gross’ arrest halted a brief warming in US-Cuba relations that have been hostile since Fidel Castro embraced Soviet Communism after his 1959 revolution. (Reuters, December 24.)